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Critique of ACIL Tasman’s Liquid Fuel Vulnerability Assessment

The public consultation process of the Energy White Paper has skillfully pushed the peak oil issue out of  its terms of reference and tucked it away under “related pages” in an assessment of Australia’s Liquid Fuel Vulnerability, a report prepared by ACIL Tasman.

http://www.ret.gov.au/energy/energy_security/emergency_response/liquid_fuel_emergency/lfe_vulnerability/Pages/lfe_vulnerability.aspx

These are the main problems with this report:

Outdated

(1) It was outdated the very moment it was published, in November 2008.  This is because it is based on the WEO 2006 and not on the WEO 2008, which was released in the same month. The WEO 2008 was long awaited as it contains a new assessment of 800 large oil fields and their decline rates, an absolutely essential  input into any forecasting of oil production.  A responsible consultant always up-to-date dealing with oil data should have advised the Government to delay the vulnerability paper until after the WEO 2008 was analysed. This was not done. A fatal flaw.

Inconsistent conclusion

(2) “ACIL Tasman concludes that while there will be a peak in production of crude oil at some time, internationally accepted information from authoritative sources suggests that this peak is still some decades away and will occur beyond 2020. It is not anticipated to be a significant factor that will affect Australia’s liquid fuels vulnerability prior to 2020.”

Again: the peak is decades away beyond 2020. If the peak is decades away, why is there this qualifier 2020? “Beyond 2020″ could mean 2021. That would not be decades away. And then what about Australia’s oil vulnerability after 2020? According to the Hirsch report preparation for peak oil takes 10-20 years. So this statement is contradictory, very confusing and practically useless for planning purposes. Or is this a hidden warning, commonly found in reports where teams working on various chapters cannot agree when writing the summary. Was the conclusion politically mandated?

Debating club competition

(3) The ACIL Tasman paper selectively discusses various peak oil related topics in the format of an essay but does NOT do its own objectively verifiable number crunching.  The report’s conclusion above is therefore opinionated and not based on calculations. Another round in an endless debating club competition while at the time of the report writing crude oil production was already peaking for 3 years, with disastrous consequences for the world’s oil dependent economy, plain to see for everyone.

My detailed critique can be found here:

http://www.ret.gov.au/energy/Documents/ewp/Matt%20Mushalik/Chapter4_Critique_ACIL_Tasman.pdf

From the above it should be clear that ACIL Tasman’s report should not be used as a basis for decision making

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